Hot Flashes from Menopause
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What are Hot Flashes from Menopause?
Hot flashes are the most common symptom of menopause and perimenopause. A hot flash is a sudden and intense feeling of heat in the head, neck, and chest. Hot flashes may cause redness of your face, neck and/or chest, some women also may experience palpitations (heart racing). A hot flash may also cause sweating, if you lose too much body heat you may feel chills after. Hot flashes that happen at night are called night sweats, they often disrupt your sleep. Hot flashes can happen at any time, typically without warning and last about 3-5 minutes, but for some women can last much longer or shorter.
What causes hot flashes?
The cause of hot flashes is not fully understood, but most commonly they are caused by changes in your hormone levels before, during, and after menopause. During menopause, the body produces less estrogen which can cause the hypothalamus (part of the brain that acts as the body’s thermostat) to be more sensitive to changes in body temperature. When the body warms up, the hypothalamus inappropriately starts telling the body to get rid of the heat, blood vessels under the skin expand and release body heat that causes the redness and heat of a hot flash. The heart may start to race and you may start to sweat, sweating is a sign the body is trying to cool itself off.
Symptoms of a hot flash, and how long they may last
The duration a woman may have hot flashes around menopause is relatively unpredictable. Some women may not experience hot flashes at all. Some women may start getting hot flashes for a few years prior to menopause, and hot flashes could continue many years after a woman’s last menstrual period. Because hot flashes are so unpredictable it is hard to say how long they may last for one woman, but on average hot flashes due to menopause will last around 7 years. The intensity of hot flash symptoms can vary from woman to woman as well, here is a list of the most common symptoms of hot flashes.
- Sudden feeling of warmth on the upper body
- Flushed, red and blotchy skin
- Rapid heartbeat
- Night sweats
Diagnosis of hot flashes from menopause
A doctor can typically diagnose hot flashes based on a description of your symptoms. Doctors often suggest blood work to check if you are in the menopausal transition. Some women may be able to tolerate their symptoms with no treatment, however, if the symptoms are difficult to deal with, talk to a doctor to discuss treatment options.
Where to get treatment
Because hot flashes can be diagnosed with a description of symptoms you can go in to see a doctor or you can simply schedule an appointment with an online doctor at any of these companies:
- Lemonaid Health
- Maven Clinic
- Pandia Health
Treatment of hot flashes from menopause
The most common and effective treatment to relieve the symptoms of hot flashes is to take estrogen, but taking hormones comes with a risk, but sometimes the benefits can be greater than the risks. Antidepressants and anti-seizure medications may also help decrease the symptoms of hot flashes, but typically they do not work as well as hormones. There are also many supplements and home remedies that work to reduce hot flashes. We will discuss these options in greater detail below.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Estrogen is the primary hormone used to treat hot flashes. Because hot flashes are often induced due to your body’s natural levels of estrogen decreasing during menopause, taking hormones is an effective treatment. It is recommended that women who have a uterus take estrogen and progesterone as progesterone helps protect the body against cancer of the uterus. Women who have had a hysterectomy can take estrogen on its own to treat hot flashes. It is suggested that you take the smallest effective dose for symptom control. HRT doses will differ from woman to woman. Estrogen treatment comes in many forms: estrogen pill, estrogen patch, topical estrogen, or vaginal estrogen. Combined therapy (estrogen/progestin) typically is in the form of an oral or intrauterine birth control. How long you should take HRT is a fine balance of risk vs. benefit. Some side effects of taking HRT are bloating, breast swelling/pain, headaches, mood changes, nausea, and vaginal bleeding. There are many health conditions where you should avoid HRT, blood clots, cancer (breast, uterine or endometrial), heart and liver disease, history of heart attack, pregnancy, or stroke.
Antidepressants may provide relief from hot flashes and typically are given in low-doses.
- Venlafaxine (Effexor XR)
- Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
- Citalopram (Celexa)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
This form of treatment is not as effective as HRT for women with severe hot flashes but can be helpful at reducing symptoms for women who can’t/don’t want to take hormones. Some side effects may include: nausea, difficulty sleeping, drowsiness, weight gain, dry mouth, or sexual dysfunction.
Other prescription medications
- Gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise, others)-Gabapentin is an anti-seizure medication that may reduce hot flashes. You may experience these side effects: drowsiness, dizziness, water retention in limbs, and fatigue
- Pregabalin (Lyrica)-Pregabalin is an anti-seizure medication that may reduce hot flashes. Side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, and weight gain.
- Oxybutynin (Ditropan XL, Oxytrol)- Oxybutynin comes in the form of a pill or a patch and is typically used to treat urinary conditions like overactive bladder, but it may also help reduce hot flashes. Side effects include dry mouth, dry eyes, constipation, nausea, and dizziness.
- Clonidine (Catapres, Kapvay, others)-Clonidine comes in the form of a pill or patch and is typically used to treat high blood pressure, however, it may provide relief from hot flashes. Side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, and constipation.
There are man dietary supplements that can be used to reduce symptoms of hot flashes, all though most supplements are “natural” products they can still have side effects or interactions with other medications
- Plant estrogens-Women who consume soy on a regular basis are less likely to report having hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. Soy contains an estrogen-like compound that may help to reduce symptoms os hot flashes.
- Black cohosh-Black cohosh’s effectiveness is really unknown, however, it is a popular supplement among women with menopausal symptoms. This supplement may be harmful to the liver in rare cases
- Vitamin E- Vitamin E is known to offer some relief from mild hot flashes, it can, when taken in high doses, increase your risk of bleeding.
If you have a mild case of hot flashes and are not ready to seek medical advice, you may be able to manage your symptoms with these home remedies.
- Keep cool- A hot flash can be triggered with even a small increase in your body’s temperature. Dressing in layers can help reduce the frequency of hot flashes because you are able to easily remove layers when you start feeling warm. Keep cool by opening windows or using a fan or air conditioner.
- Watch what you eat and drink- Certain foods can trigger a hot flash, such as hot and spicy foods, caffeinated beverages, and alcohol. Everybody’s triggers are different, learn yours, and avoid consuming them.
- Relax-Meditation, breathing techniques, or other stress-reducing measures all may provide some women relief from hot flashes. If it doesn’t help with your hot flashes it may provide relief from sleep disturbances caused by hot flashes.
- Don’t smoke- Smoking has been associated with increased hot flashes, you can reduce hot flashes and many other serious health conditions by not smoking.
- Lose weight- If you are overweight or obese losing weight may help reduce your hot flashes.
Mind and body techniques
Many women are turning to alternative medicine techniques to help treat their hot flashes. These mind and body approaches include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)- CBT is becoming a commonly used type of counseling to help treat hot flashes. CBT does not usually reduce the frequency of hot flashes but often helps reduce how much they bother you.
- Hypnosis- Research shows that hypnosis may help reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes.
- Mindfulness/Meditation- These techniques may not reduce the number of hot flashes you have but it often helps reduce how much they bother you.
- Acupuncture- Research shows that acupuncture may help decrease the frequency and severity of hot flashes, but this form of treatment is still controversial.
There are many treatment options available today for your hot flashes caused by menopause, if one method doesn’t seem to be working, talk a doctor about trying something different. Different women may respond differently to each form of treatment. Take back your life and get relief from your hot flashes by checking out our list of the top online doctor companies who can help treat your hot flashes today.